Blue Square Bet Premier: Altrincham 0 Wrexham FC 0

THE loss of giant defender Marvin Andrews to a hamstring injury could have more serious consequences for Wrexham’s promotion push than letting two points slip through their fingers in a 0-0 draw at Altrincham on Saturday.

The former Trinidad international limped out of the Moss Lane action after 76 minutes and faces a lengthy period on the sidelines at a time when the Dragons might also struggle to retain the services of on-loan centre-back Mark Creighton, whose temporary Racecourse spell expires following this afternoon’s home match with Bath City at the Racecourse.

Although Wrexham manager Dean Saunders is hoping to extend Creighton’s stay, his club Oxford United will be looking to cash in on a player surplus to requirements, particularly as he is known to have attracted interest from other Blue Square Bet Premier League clubs.

So the Andrews injury could not have come at a more inopportune moment for the Racecourse boss, who will now make Creighton’s capture his top priority following this afternoon’s visit of Bath City.

Speaking about the transfer window after Saturday’s match, Saunders said: “We have a month to sort that out. I have got a few things in my head, but whether we can afford to do it I don’t know.

“Thankfully no-one has rung up for any of my players yet, but that’s another thing I have to consider – if someone comes in and makes a bid for a couple of our players.

“At the moment I’m just concentrating on this game today and the one on Monday and we’ll take it from there.”

Wrexham’s lack of financial clout gives Saunders little room for manoeuvre in the month ahead but the stalemate at Moss Lane, where the home club’s largest gate of the season by some distance was due to the huge away following, will have done little to encourage a bumper Bank Holiday attendance at the Racecourse this afternoon.

A little ring-rustiness was to be expected in the wake of an enforced winter break that for Gareth Taylor, Andy Morrell and skipper Dean Keates had lasted five weeks. The other Wrexham players, meanwhile, hadn’t kicked a ball in anger for three weeks and it showed.

But Altrincham were in the same boat and, despite their part-time status, they showed few signs of tiring in the closing stages of a dour and sometimes bruising encounter that produced few if any genuine goal-scoring opportunities at either end.

And the home side certainly passed the ball better than their opponents during a first half in which Keates struggled to stamp his authority on proceedings and fell considerably short of his normally high standards in terms of delivery from set-pieces.

But the midfielder was more switched on than some of his team-mates just 30 seconds into the game, sliding a quickly-taken free kick into the path of equally alert full-back Chris Blackburn, who advanced down the right flank before delivering an inviting low cross that neither Morrell nor Taylor was quick enough to meet.

And that, in essence, was the story of Wrexham’s afternoon with hesitation and indecision too often the prominent feature of their end-product in and around the Altrincham penalty area.

The game’s only save of note came from Chris Maxwell in the eighth minute, the Wales under-21 keeper diving to his left to push away a fierce shot from Michael Twiss, who was put clear by debutant Carl Piergianni, a loan signing from Peterborough United.

The 18-year-old defender endured a baptism of fire at times in trying to contain the threat posed by Adrian Cieslewicz, who looked to be the Dragons’ best hope of piercing the home defence but, not for the first time, was frequently let down by his decision-making.

A classic example came midway through the first half when, after a Keates free kick was cleared to his feet, the young winger’s skill gave him room for a strike on goal. Instead he chose the safer option, picking out Andrews whose shot from a difficult angle was never going to trouble goalkeeper Stuart Coburn.

Dominant as ever at the back where he and Creighton have forged an impressive partnership, Andrews should have put the visitors ahead in the 34th minute, but he steered his header from a Keates corner over the crossbar and, as Wrexham began to turn the screw, Morrell met Blackburn’s low cross at the near post only to be let down by his initial touch and gave a Robins defender the time to block.

An effort by Taylor suffered a similar fate and with half time approaching the veteran striker’s flick-on was taken up by Cieslewicz, who really should have tested Coburn but instead blazed the ball high over the bar.

It was a very different story after the break, Altrincham coming back into the contest with a vengeance and close to an early goal through the excellent Shaun Densmore, who rounded off a fine passing movement with a shot that was not far off target.

The Dragons hit back through Cieslewicz, who again spurned what looked to be a clear opportunity to have a go and then saw his attempted pass to Morrell easily cut out, and when play quickly switched to the other penalty box, Andrews made a superb goal-saving tackle on Chris Beesley just as the striker was poised to let fly.

The game was rapidly developing into an end-to-end tussle, Sam Hewson’s shot scraping the Wrexham post before Cieslewicz produced the afternoon’s touch of class, a turn to slip one marker followed by a run and curling shot that left Coburn rooted to the spot but faded narrowly wide.

Hewson was given the benefit of the doubt following a robust penalty box challenge on Cieslewicz and when cool heads were needed at the other end following Maxwell’s rush of blood that saw him advance way too far, Neil Ashton came up with a decisive clearance.

Wrexham, having replaced Morrell and Taylor with Marc Williams and Mathias Pogba, had further half-chances in the closing stages, Williams just denied a tap-in by the spin of the ball. Frank Sinclair and David Brown snatched at their opportunities to break the deadlock and Williams was furious not be awarded an 87th minute penalty when he appeared to be shoved in the back by home defender Rob Williams.

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